What Is Even the Point of Karaoke, Anyway?

Illustration by Mike Gorman

Karaoke can be a dangerous endeavor. What can you sing that won't make friends shun you? How can you go balls-out during your next performance? Each week in "Ask a Karaoke Host," RFT Music writer and professional karaoke host Allison Babka answers your burning questions about maximizing your melodious mutterings and minimizing your friends' pain. Ask her stuff by emailing rftkaraoke@gmail.com or hashtagging #rftkaraoke on Twitter.

What's the point of karaoke, really? It's just a bunch of lame singers who will never be in a band. -- She Hates Me

You, sir, obviously have no soul.

What's the point of a mail clerk wearing a $1,000 suit to a corporate job interview?

What's the point of a kid feeding her stuffed animals fake cookies?

What's the point of 10 million people playing World of Warcraft?

I'll tell you the point. It's hope. Imagination. Determination. Fun. Do you remember what fun is, Debbie Downer?

Children and adults try on different personas all the time. Just look in any office, at any baseball game, during Halloween, at a daycare center or in your own bedroom (Ok, maybe not your bedroom). Everyone knows how to roleplay. Maybe doing a mediocre job of impersonating Bono isn't as lofty as pretending to kill a bunch of orcs, but it's a way to act out something that dwells deep inside. Maybe the singers are conquering a fear, or maybe they're compensating for a trait that their everyday selves don't have.

We've all done that. Somewhere inside me, there's a sultry girl in a shiny dress slinking across a piano while singing "Fever." Now in real life, my cat would snag a hole in the dress and I'd roll off the piano cartoon style, but in my head, I'm giving every guy in the audience boners with my awesome voice and fierce eye contact. And a tiny bit of that comes out during my karaoke performances (The eye contact, anyway. I hope.).

Are you telling me that you've never shredded air guitar like Ritchie Blackmore while your friend blasts "Smoke on the Water" in the car? Because if you are, you're a freaking liar. Music makes us move and feel and imagine and dare. Everybody wants to be admired and applauded in some fashion, and for many folks, a karaoke mic or Rock Band guitar is as close to a Carnegie Hall performance as they'll get. So while these people may "never be in a band," as you so helpfully pointed out, they're doing something gutsy, gaining confidence that will affect other areas of their lives and living like a rock star for three minutes. What have you done lately, asshole?

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I find that doing a pitch-perfect rendition of "Hey Hey What Can I Do" while dressed as Homestar Runner tends to get a positive reaction from a karaoke audience. But everyone needs to find their own thing, really...also, that was on Halloween, so I probably won't wear the costume again.


What is the point of karaoke?  Really?  I read an interesting article recently that I think applies.  We live in a world where we are so connected, that we know who all the world 'bests' are.  We know who the famous people are that are amazing at what they do, and were also lucky enough (because no matter how good you are, or how determined, there is an element of luck involved) to make it.  We DON'T, however, know who are local 'bests' are, and too many of us are comparing them to the world bests.  "Best looking girl in town?  She's no Miss America."  How fair is that?  How reasonable is that?  Karaoke is one of those rare endeavors that brings back the idea of the local expert, at least for a few minutes.  I, for one, think that is something to celebrate.

allison.babka topcommenter

@MichellePar That's a good notion. I kind of like the idea that instead of comparing a local singer's voice to Beyonce's, someone might say "She sings fine, but she's nothing like the dame who belted out 'The Rose' at Johnny's Bar last week." 

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